Wednesday 6 November 2019

'The saints whom I have loved': Feast of All the Saints of Ireland

To mark the feast of All the Saints of Ireland, celebrated today, I return to the hymn in their praise by Saint Cuimmin of Connor. I have previously published the translation by Eugene O'Curry here and  promised then to post the alternative translation by Whitley Stokes. Stokes remarks in his introduction that he felt the shortcomings in the manuscript used by O'Curry made another translation desirable. His work also includes a helpful index of the saints and their feast days. For more information on the feast of All the Saints of Ireland, see the introduction to the Litany of the Saints of Ireland here.


'S. Cumineus Connerensis scripsit versibus Hibernicis opusculum de singularibus praecipuorum Sanctorum Hiberniae virtutibus; in quo de singulis unam aliquam singularem virtutem vel heroicum factum per modum specialis elogii refert. Floruisse videtur circa annum 656.' Colgan. Acta Sanctorum Hiberniae, Lovanii, 1645, p. 5.

The poem above referred to is here printed from the copy, in the handwriting of Michael O' Clery, contained in a manuscript belonging to the Royal Library, Brussels, and marked 2324—40.It has been already edited (with a translation and notes by O' Curry) in Dr. Kelly's Calendar of Irish Saints, Dublin, sine anno, pp. 160—171, apparently from the copy in H. I.10, p. 150, a manuscript in the library of Trinity College. But this copy is so inaccurate and incomplete as to render another edition desirable. Most of the quatrains of our poem have been inserted in the Martyrology of Donegal at the respective days of the saints which it mentions….

Cuimin Condeire cecinit.
(Brussels MS. 2324—40, fo. 44a).

Cuimmin of Conneire sang.

1. Calpiurn's son Patrick, of Macha's fort, loved — high was the rule — (to be) foodless from Shrovetide to Easter: none of his penances was greater.

5. Fedilmid’s son, chaste Colomb cille of the generous miracles, loved (this:) during a week into his body he would not cast what would satisfy a pauper at one time.

9. Blessed Brigit loved lasting devotion which was not prescribed, shepherding and early rising, hospitality to wonder-working men.)

13. Mochta of Louth loved, by law and by rule, as a pauper for a space, a hundred years, not to let a dainty bit into his body.

17. Comgell, the head of Ulster, loved (this) — noble was every tale that was told (of him) — a blessing on the lord's body — he used to eat (only) on every Sunday.

21. Generous Féichín of Fore loved (this): the devotion was not untruthful — he used to set his wretched rib on the hard prison without raiment.

25. Chaste Ciarán of Clonmacnois, loved humility which was not hasty (or) unsteadfast: he never said a word that was false: since he was born he looked not on a woman.

29. Beó-aed loved friendliness to all the saints of Erin. A guest-house and a present he used to give to every one.

33. My Laisse of the Lake (Erne) loved to be in a hard prison of stone, (and to keep) a guest-house for the men of Erin, without denial, without a particle of churlishness.

37. Brénainn (of Clonfert) loved intense devotion, according to synod and assembly. Seven years on the back of the whale, the arrangement of devotion was a hardship.

41. My Ite loved a great fostering, strenuous humility without dejection; for the love of the Lord she never, never put her cheek to the floor.

45. Since she took a girdle round her body— I hear according to knowledge thereof — my Ninne of Sliab Cuilinn never ate enough or a meal.

49. Kevin (of Glendalough) loved a narrow hut — "twas a work of pious devotion — (and) standing up ever and always — great was the protection against the Devil.

53. Scuithin of the sweet stories loved — a blessing on every one who hath done it — damsels beautiful, white -bosomed, and among them he kept his virginity.

57. Cainnech of the devotion loved to be in a hard, woody hermitage. No one used to be cherishing him save only the wild deer.

61. Ailbe loved hospitality — the devotion was not untruthful. Never entered a body of clay (one) that was better as to food and raiment.

65. Findchú of Brigown loved — Jesu's blessing on his soul! — (to spend) seven years on his reaping-hooks, without treading on the ground.

69. Dear Dalbach of Cúil (Collainge) loved to resort to austere repentance. He never put his hand to his side so long as he lived along with his soul.

73. Barre, a flame of wisdom, loved lowly service to the world's men. Never did he see anyone overmatched whom he did not help.

77. My Cutu of the devotion loved (weeping) — wondrous is every tale of him. Before him no one ever shed half the tears that he shed.

81. Dear Colmán of Cloyne loved poetry through skilful arrangement. Whoever was praised without fault (by Colmán) evil would not come after him.

85. Generous steadfast Fachtna loved holy teaching with candles. He never said aught that was evil — only what seemed good to his Lord.

89. Senán loved lasting illness: good was every answer of his answers — thirty diseases in his body — that was enough of evil for the sage.

93. Ende loved noble devotion in Aran — triumph with melody — a hard, narrow prison of stone, to bring every one to heaven.

97. Fursa loved true devotion, nothing more wondrous is related — a well with the coldness of snow, so that (therein) he would recite his psalms accurately.

101. Nessán the holy deacon loved angelic, pure devotion: over his tooth there came not aught that was falsehood or deceit.

105. The devout Mac creiche loved a prison hard and pure: from Shrovetide to Easter without (receiving) tribute save only bread and cress.

109. Lachtin the champion loved lowly service which was humble: standing up for ever was he, protecting- Munster's men.

113. My gifted Beóóc loved (this) according- to the synod of the sages, when he was sorely abased he would plunge his head into the well.

117. Noble Iarlaithe loved — a cleric (he) that would not practise niggardliness — three hundred genuflexions every night, three hundred genuflexions every day.

121. Ultán loved his children, a prison round his thin side, and bathing in cold water in the cruel wind he loved.

125. Cellach, son of Connmach, loved devotion which tortured his flesh: blindness, deafness, lameness were given to him — 'twas a dismal portion!

129. Ruadán, king- of Lothra, loved malediction which brought to an end the visiting (of Tara). No business that he loved incurred the reproach of angels.

133. Fiachna loved true devotion, the teaching of every one with a multitude. He never uttered a wicked word, but (only) what seemed good to his Lord.

137. Wondrous Benignus loved — the noble sage who was complete. While he would say his paternoster he would not be without thinking of Latin.

141. My Lua, the fully miraculous, loved noble, pure humility, submission to his tutor, submission to his parents, submission to every one and bewailing his sins.

145. I am Cuimmin of Conneire, who practised devotion and chastity. Best are those on whom we rely — the prayers of the saints whom I have loved!

Index of Saints

(The saints' respective days are in parenthesis.)

Ailbe 61 (Sep. 12).
Barra 73 (Sep. 25). better Barre, a pet name of Barrfind.
Benignus 137 (Nov. 9).
Beó-aed 29 (March 8).
mo Beóóc 113 (July 24).
Brénainn 37 (May 16).
Brigit 9 (Feb. 1).
Cainnech 57 (Oct. 11).
Calpurn. Calprunn 2.
Cellach mac Connmaig 125(Ap. 1).
Ciarán Clúana 25 (Sep. 9).
Coemgin 49 (June 3).
Colmán (Clúana Uama 81(Nov. 24).
Colum cille 5 (June 9).
Comgall 17 (May 10).
Comnnach 125.
mo Chutu 77 (May 14).
Cuimmin Condeire 145 (July 1).
Dalbach 69 (Oct. 23).
Ende 93 (March 21).
Fachtna 85 (Jan. 19).
Féichin Fobair 21(Jan. 20).
Feidlimid 6.
Fiachna 133 (March 30 or Ap. 29).
Findchu, of Bri gobann 65 (Nov. 25).
Fursa 97 (Jan. 16).
Iarlaithe 117 (Dec. 26).
m'Ite 41 (Jan. 15).
Lachtin 109 (June 26).
mo Laisi 33 (Sep. 12).
mo Lua 141 (Aug. 4).
Mac reithe (creiche?) 105.
Mochta 13 (Aug. 19).
Nessán 101 (July 25).
mo Ninne 48 (July 6). A Latin Life of her (MS. Cotton. Cleop. A. 2, fo. 52 b) is referred to by Reeves, Vita Columbae, 339 note, where 'Monenna' is said to have died in 518.
Pátric 1 (March 17).
Rúadán 129 (Ap. 15).
Scuithin 53 (Jan. 2).
Senán 89 (March 8).
Ultán 121 (Sep. 4).


Line 1. ‘Macha's fort', now Ard Macha. Armagh. For the legends of Macha see the Dindsenchas. Revue celtique XVI, 45. LL. 125 b 42 and Cormac's Glossary s. v. Emain.
7, 8. As to S. Colomb cille's abstemiousness, see Reeves. Life of St. Columba, p. 348.
13—16. Compare the quatrain in LL. 357, marg. sup. That is. 'Mochta's tooth, no empty fame, three hundred years, lasting his tribute, without a word of error over it upwards, without a bit of fat over it downwards.' The rise from 100 to 300 years in the fabulous length of Mochta's life tends to shew that our poem was older than the quatrain just quoted.
20. Comgell's abstinence save on Sunday is paralleled by that of Adamnán of Eddingham. 'de genere Scottorum', who lived so abstemiously 'ut nihil unquam cibi vel potus. Excepta die dominica et quinta sabbati perciperet'. Beda, H. E. IV, 25.
21. As to Féchin of Fore see Hev. Celt. XII, 318 et seq.
28. For an instance of Ciarán's modesty see Lismore Lives, 4128—4131.
33. 'My Laisse of the Lake', i. e. of Daminis, an island in Loug-h Erne.
37. As to Brénainn's celebrations of Easter on the back of a whale see Lismore Lives, 3601—3616.
41. 'great fostering'. This means, according to O'Curry, that many great saints were brought up under her care. But the poet alludes to the legend that every night in herhermitage Ite fostered the child Jesus.
53—56. The legend here referred to is given in Fél. Oeng., p. XXXII. A similar tale is told of Robert d'Arbrissel, the founder of the monastery of Fonteviault. See also Todd, St. Patrick, p. 91 note. Yule, Marco Polo, II, 357, and the Saturday Review for 13th July 1867, p. 65.
59—60. O' Curry says that the deer became so docile, according to the legend that they allowed the saint 'to use their antlers as a bookstand'.
65—68. For the legend here mentioned see Lismore Lives, 2931—2937.
73. Barre of Corcach (Cork). Mart. Don., p. 258.
77. My Cutu, also called Carthach, of Lismore, Mart. Don., p. 126.
85. Fachtna, patron (according to O’Curry) of Ross and Kilfenora.
89. Senán of Inis Cathaig: Lismore Lives, pp. 54—74.
97. Fursa of Peronne. His Irish Life at Brussels is an almost literal translation of Beda's Latin, H. E. Ill, 19.
101. Nessán of Mungret near Limerick. Mart. Don., p. 202.
105. Mac creiche (according to O' Curry) of Kilmacrahy near Inistimon, co. Clare.
109—112. Lachtin of Achad úr (Freshford) in Kilkenny. Colgan (Acta Sanctorum Hiberniae, p. 657, col. 1) gives in the following passage a translation of this quatrain: Sanctus etiam Cumineus Connerensis in suo opusculo de specialibus praerogatinis et uirtutibus quorundam ex praecipuis Hiberniae Sanctis indicat ipsum strenuum extitisse propugnatorem Mumoniensium in quibusdam dissidijs ortis inter ipsos et alios quosdam Hiberniae Principes: nirumque continuis nigilijs et rara carnis castigatione assnetum. In more, inquit, habuit S. Lactinus strennus pugil: (quod non fuit exigua carnis castigatio) sine intermissione in uigiliis stare, pro Momoniorum defensione.
113. My Beóóc of Termonn Magrath in Lough Derg, Donegal (O' Curry).
117. Iarlaithe of Tuam. Mart. Don., p. 348.
121. Ultán loved his children', i. e. he fed the children whose mothers had died of the Yellow Plague; see the legend in Fel. Oeng., p. cxlij.
125. Cellach son of Connnmach, of Disert Cellaig in Connaught, according to O’Curry. But see Mart. Don., p. 92, where a doubt is expressed whether this Cellach was one of Patrick's successors, or the deacon of Glendalough whose day is Oct, 7.
129. Ruadán of Lothra. one of the two saints that cursed Tara, as told in Silva Gadelica i. 77, from Egerton 1782, fo.38b2.
133. Fiachna. There were two saints so named. The day of one is March 30, that of the other is Ap. 29. See Mart. Don.,p. 90.
137. Benignus (the Irish form, Benén, is from Benegnus), Patrick's disciple and successor, Mart. Don., p. 300.
141. 'My Lua', perhaps the mo Lua called mac oche 'son of armpit' from the incident related in Fel. Oeng., p. OXXVIII. The following mnemonic quatrain about him is misprinted in Mart. Don., p. 210:
Mo Lua ha hanmchara do Dabid
dar muir modhmall
is do mAodóg ‘sdo mo Caomhóg
is do Comhgall.
'Mo Lua was soul-friend (spiritual director) to David (of Cell muine) over the . . . sea, and to my Aedóc and to my Caemóc and to Comgall!"

Zeitschrift fur Celtische Philologie Volume 1, (1897), 54-74

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